Being at pre-school and all the other transitions of summer has really brought out the two in Alden. As in the terrible twos. Not that he is terrible – Alden is charming, hilarious, cuddly, extremely empathetic, and loving. He is full of hugs and snuggles – for his sister, us, the kittens, his grandparents. He is concerned about knowing where everyone he loves is at all times and adores being with his family. When Nonnie and Papa were here last week, Alden was beyond thrilled. The first morning at breakfast he kept pointing at each of them and declaring, “Nonnie! Papa! Here!!” as if he could hardly believe they were sitting right before him (how did they get out of the phone where they usually live?) This week, Kai is at Nonnie and Papa’s house visiting while Alden is with us. He looked confusedly at the phone as we were doing FaceTime one evening and said, “La La – come here” as though he wanted her to pop out of the phone and get back where she belonged – with him. At home. Technology is so confusing.
But, for all of Alden’s charm and sweetness, Alden is also incredibly stubborn and strong-willed. And, all these transitions have really tested him – he is looking for a modicum of control over his ever-changing world and has tried to exert that control over decisions that involve him. Like what to eat. Or wear. Or what to do. And, because Alden has a limited (although ever expanding) vocabulary and can be difficult to understand, his decisions are often misinterpreted, causing him mounting frustration. It results in a kind of perverse guessing game where he says something and we don’t understand so we start guessing, “do you want oatmeal?” and he responds, “NO! NO! Oa-mal.” Then he repeats his original request. We guess again, “do you want yogurt?” and he responds, “NOO! NO! o-urt”. Eventually, it gets to the point that even if we guess correctly, he is so mad that he refuses the very thing that he originally wanted. Or, we guess right straight away and he agrees that we have guessed what he wants but then he promptly changes his mind -- maybe because it seems like it was no longer his decision – and refuses the thing he requested once we offer it to him. It’s a bit crazy making, but I also understand that he is grappling with a lot of change, doing a fantastic job holding it together at school every day, and needing to just melt a few (dozen) times a day with us. Hopefully, as he settles into the new routine, the tantrums will subside.
Other than tantrums at home, Alden is doing fantastic adjusting to school. He is participating in activities and seems excited to be there. When I picked him up on Monday, he told me “no go. Stay. Stay here.” So, that was a very positive sign. Of course, it was followed by Tuesday. On Tuesday, he was the last child to be picked up. When I walked in, he came tearing over to me and gave me the biggest hug. He looked me in the eyes, with tears welling up a bit, and said, “I was scared.” He was scared that all the other kids had left. His teacher said when the other children left, Alden started to look worried and said, “where Mama go?” repeatedly. She kept explaining to him that I was coming, and got him a snack and a game, but he continued to ask where I was. I can’t believe that he was able to communicate so clearly about his feelings. I hugged him tight and told him we would always pick him up.
Which brings us to today. Today I’m in Los Angeles and Eric is on a river trip, so our friends are picking Alden up from school and I won’t see him until really late. I explained to Alden repeatedly that he was going to go to Will’s house after school and that I would pick him up at Will’s house. I told him that I was coming home – but not until after bedtime. At first he said “no, no Will house” but I said that I had to be on an airplane and the airplane would not get me home until after bedtime. And then I repeated that he was going to go to Will’s house to play and I would come get him after bed time. He looked at me with his big, imploring eyes and said, “oh-tay.” He seemed to understand. Sometimes the work/parent balance is so hard.
Preschool. Communication. Feelings. The need for control and decision making authority. The strong desire to be understood. Alden is definitely growing up. If you ask him if he’s a big boy, he denies it. He proclaims that he’s our baby. But, his babyhood is nearly gone – despite his proclamations otherwise. Even though the tantrums are hard, I so wish I could bottle up his snuggles and hugs and affection…. I wish I could hold onto his babyness for a moment longer even as I’m so anxious to continue to get to know the amazing little boy he is becoming.